The feeling when something is happening that bothers you. You have the urge to say or do something to change it or make it stop.

You feel annoyed when something disturbs you or is against your wishes1. For example, when a mosquito is buzzing around your head all night, when you cannot find the coffee because someone put it in the wrong place, or when a colleague stops by your desk and keeps talking to you when you are working on a deadline. The source of annoyance can be disturbing a number of things: your peace and quiet (e.g., the mosquito), your concentration (e.g., people talking when you are trying to work), your comfort (e.g., a very uncomfortable airplane seat), or your flow of activities (e.g., the misplaced coffee).

Unlike other anger-like emotions, annoyance is a bit volatile: it can change depending on your current mood or activities, and even on the time of day. For instance, the same talkative colleague may be a welcome guest when you have little work to do. What you get genuinely angry about, on the other hand, is relatively static.

There are several factors that influence how annoyed you get with something. Firstly, since the event itself is usually quite benign, its frequency or duration is an important factor2. People talking for five minutes next to your desk when you are trying to work may be tolerated, but if they do it for an hour, you may feel differently. A second factor is your perceived control over the event. Often, just the idea of being able to stop something already makes it less bothering. For example, if a roommate plays loud music, you may be already less annoyed just knowing that if you asked her, she would instantly put it down. Thirdly, it can depend on your mood or tolerance level how quickly you get annoyed. This can be conceptualized as a tolerance level that goes up or down. Any event that goes over this line, will cause annoyance.

In the comic, Murphy is trying to get some work done, but is disturbed by his colleague’s music. He asks him to use headphones, but soon it becomes clear this only makes matters worse.

Movie clips


Typical expressions

“I really don’t feel like this now.”

“Please stop what you’re doing.”

Murphy's bad day

Comparisons with other emotions

Annoyance & Frustration

Frustration and annoyance can seem very similar, and certain situations will evoke both emotions. For instance, if you are trying to solve a crossword puzzle but you get stuck halfway, you can feel frustrated and annoyed – annoyed with yourself or with the creators of the puzzle. The difference between the emotions is that frustration is always about a goal you are trying to reach, a focus that annoyance does not have. Annoyance on the other hand always needs an object: you are annoyed with someone or something. So, in a frustrating situation like the puzzle example, you only feel annoyance if you attribute your being stuck to something – i.e. your own abilities or those of the puzzle creators. Otherwise you just feel frustrated. On the other hand, you can feel annoyed in a situation where there isn’t a goal you are trying to reach, but not frustrated. You can be annoyed with an off-color remark of a friend, but most likely not frustrated.

Annoyance & Anger

Anger and annoyance can both occur when someone does something that you didn’t want them to do. However, whereas annoyance is reaction against something that is your current wishes, you only become angry when you think there is a bad motivation behind it. For example, when students are talking in class, a teacher may just be annoyed. However, if she believes that they are purposefully trying to undermine her, she would be angry. People can be annoyed if something disturbs them, even if they see it in general as something positive. For example, a mother may be annoyed when her son is practicing violin at home, even if she supports his efforts to learn to play it. She would not become angry, unless she would see it as something ‘bad’, for instance, if she had earlier forbidden him from playing because it distracts from his schoolwork. This shows that in anger there is a certain moral dimension. The other person should not do things like this, because they are bad. In annoyance, there is simply the feeling that the other person should not do this, now.

Sources and further reading